What’s your why?
Every day, we are faced with choices. Choices about how to spend our time, how to spend our money, and how to allocate our energy. We are blessed to live a place and time where we get to make choices about these things, but having choices creates new challenges.
Why go to work? Why do this job, or that job? Or work at all?
Without a clear understanding of why, of what we are aiming at, its difficult to know if we are on-track. If you made $75k this year, is that good? Bad? Adequate? Inadequate? How do you know, unless you are able to answer the question of why its important to make money in the first place? How important is that relative to how satisfactory your job is? Or how meaningful your work is?
What’s my why?
For me, I come to the office every day to help people live healthy, happy, meaningful lives. While this might seem really obvious, its actually incredibly important to be clear about this. For example, when I think about growing the practice, or hiring, I can filter those questions through the lens of helping more patients. If expansion furthers my why, I move forward. If growing does not serve that need, it I don’t proceed. Similarly, when I think about treatment decisions for patients, the same lens (will this help someone live a healthy, happy, meaningful life?) becomes a prism through which to view that decision, and a guiding principle in choosing between different treatments.
I often have discussions about patients around work, and truth be told, there are a lot of reasons to work. These include things like providing an income to pay for necessities (food, rent, bills, etc), contribute to making the world a better place, provide for one’s family, a way to pass the time or a reason to get out of the house. There is not one reason to go to work that applies to everyone. I have noticed that when we are not clear about why we show up, making decisions becomes difficult.
Suppose you have been offered a new job, and it pays more, but requires a longer commute and more hours. Is it worth it? If you are clear on why you work in the first place, this decision is a lot easier to make. For example, if you work to strictly maximize your income, take the new job! However, if you work to support your family, and your current income is adequate, then taking more money, but having less time with your family, might be a poor trade-off. However, without a clear lens through which to view that decision, it is difficult to move forward with either intention or with confidence.
Why and Substance Use Disorders
Many of the people I see in the office suffer from substance use disorders. Understanding why we treat these is (literally and figuratively) a lifesaver. Using the framework above, why treat opiate addiction? Because it prevents people from living a healthy, happy, meaningful life. Patients will ask how I view the various medications that can be used for treatment, and the same framework applies, do these medications help someone live a healthy, happy meaningful life, or not? Patients will often ask if they should stay on medications— understanding why usually provides the ansewer: yes (or no) depending on if the medication will help with living a happy life.
So, what’s important to you? That’s a good place to start to understand your motivation for doing things. Once you have a handle on what’s important, try intentionally asking yourself how the decisions you make day-to-day relate to your values. Are you living your why? If so, great! If not, what changes are in order?